Food retailers boost wages for warehouse and retail workers

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by Emily Atkins

Canada’s major grocery retailers are taking steps to recognize the dedication of their workers and keep them safe as they ensure the Canadians have access to food and essential supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Loblaw and Giant Tiger have increased wages for truck drivers, distribution centre and frontline store workers, retroactive to March 8. Giant Tiger has boosted wages by $2/hour and is looking to wire temporary workers. Loblaw has increased compensation for store and distribution centre workers by approximately 15 percent, which also adds up to about $2/hour.

Sobeys launched a “Hero Pay Program” for its staff in stores and distribution centres. They will each receive $50/week regardless of their hours. Staff who worked more than 20 hours will also get a $2 bump per hour, retroactive to March 8. Metro, which also operates Food Basics, also announced  that its employees in stores and distribution centres will receive an extra $2 an hour from March 8 to May 2.

“The ongoing outstanding efforts of our employees to ensure our stores continue providing our valued customers a convenient, safe and comforting place to shop during this difficult time have been nothing short of extraordinary and deserve financial recognition,” said Paul Wood, president and COO of Giant Tiger Stores Limited. “I’m incredibly proud of how our staff continues to rise to the occasion and we look forward to welcoming new temporary staff to fill our ongoing needs as we move through this situation together.”

“We have made the decision to temporarily increase compensation for our store and distribution centre colleagues by approximately 15 per cent retroactive to March 8th in recognition of their outstanding and ongoing efforts keeping our stores open and operating so effectively,” said Loblaw CEO Galen Weston in a statement.

Walmart Canada is “accelerating” the payment of annual bonuses for store staff and making live online physician care available for all 90,000-plus staff across the country. It is also attempting to hire 10,000 new workers.

Across the border, Amazon is hiring 100,000, discount retailer Dollar General is looking for up to 50,000 new staff, double its normal hiring rate.

Walgreens is offering a US$300 bonus for full-time and $150 for part-time hourly team members in stores and distribution centres that will be paid beginning late April.

Walgreens also updated its attendance policy for hourly staff through the end of April, permitting individuals to stay at home due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 for situations including childcare needs, or if they are showing signs or symptoms of illness. Staff who contract a confirmed case of COVID-19 will have the first two weeks of their absence paid. If they are unable to return to work after two weeks, an additional pay option may be available through disability leave. If a store, area office, distribution center or other company workplace location falls under a mandated quarantine, any impacted staff will also be paid for their absence without requiring the use of paid time off, the company said in a statement.